Ex­perts are call­ing on the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board to probe deadly bus crash in Ot­tawa

Dou­ble-decker bus crashed into tran­sit shel­ter in Ot­tawa

The Hamilton Spectator - - Front Page - ALANNA RIZZA

Ex­perts are call­ing on the fed­eral Trans­porta­tion Safety Board to in­ves­ti­gate a deadly bus crash in Ot­tawa to pre­vent sim­i­lar in­ci­dents from oc­cur­ring again.

Ahmed Sha­l­aby, a civil en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba, said the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board should be in­volved in prob­ing the deadly crash to en­sure the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is trans­par­ent and rec­om­men­da­tions are made to im­prove safety.

“The bus was car­ry­ing 90 pas­sen­gers,” he said. “Is that not im­por­tant enough to war­rant a fed­eral safety in­ves­ti­ga­tion? If it isn’t, then what is?”

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, a dou­bledecker bus op­er­ated by lo­cal trans­porta­tion agency OC Transpo hopped a curb and struck a tran­sit shel­ter, carv­ing deep into the ve­hi­cle’s up­per level and crush­ing a num­ber of seats.

A lo­cal hos­pi­tal said one per­son re­mains in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, six are listed as se­ri­ous and four are in stable con­di­tion.

The safety board con­firmed that they are not in­ves­ti­gat­ing the bus crash as the fed­eral in­de­pen­dent agency only probes ma­rine, pipe­line, rail and air in­ci­dents.

“If this bus were a train, the (board) would im­me­di­ately in­ves­ti­gate. That’s not enough to make a dif­fer­ence to me,” said Sha­l­aby, who is also the chair of a re­search pro­gram on mu­nic­i­pal in­fra­struc­ture.

The board’s man­date is to ad­vance trans­porta­tion safety by con­duct­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions that re­sult in pub­lic re­ports and mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove tran­sit safety.

“As part of its on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions, the TSB also re­views devel­op­ments in trans­porta­tion safety and iden­ti­fies safety risks that it be­lieves gov­ern­ment and the trans­porta­tion in­dus­try should ad­dress to re­duce in­jury and loss,” said the Gov­ern­ment of Canada web­site.

It dif­fers from Trans­port Canada, which de­vel­ops and ad­min­is­ters poli­cies, reg­u­la­tions and ser­vices for trans­porta­tion sys­tems, as the board works to ad­vance safety specif­i­cally.

The board in­ves­ti­gated a crash in 2013 in which six peo­ple were killed in an OC Transpo dou­bledecker bus, but only be­cause a Via Rail train was in­volved. The train and bus col­lided dur­ing a morn­ing com­mute in sub­ur­ban Ot­tawa, shearing off the front of the bus.

But Sha­l­aby said the kind of ve­hi­cle in­volved in a mass-fa­tal­ity crash shouldn’t make a dif­fer­ence in what spurs a gov­ern­ment-led in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Sha­l­aby said he stud­ied fac­tors con­tribut­ing to the Hum­boldt Bron­cos bus crash, which killed

16 when a trans­port truck and the bus car­ry­ing a ju­nior hockey team col­lided at a ru­ral in­ter­sec­tion in Saskatchewan in April.

“We’ve been here many times be­fore,” said Sha­l­aby. “These fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions need to hap­pen, the ques­tion is when?”

Sha­l­aby said he wants the City of Ot­tawa to ask the fed­eral safety board to be in­volved in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which is cur­rently be­ing led by Ot­tawa po­lice.

The po­lice force has re­leased lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about the crash, cit­ing a sprawl­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion deal­ing with nu­mer­ous fac­tors that will take time to re­veal an­swers.

Hours after the crash the bus driver was ar­rested, but she has since been re­leased un­con­di­tion­ally pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion. On Satur­day evening, po­lice fin­ished doc­u­ment­ing the scene and re­opened nearby roads.

Const. Chuck Benoit said po­lice con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances of the crash and if the po­lice force be­lieves ad­di­tional agen­cies are needed, they would be sought out.

The city re­ferred to Ot­tawa po­lice when reached for com­ment.

Gra­ham Larkin, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Vi­sion Zero, which

works to­ward re­duc­ing traf­fi­cre­lated deaths and in­juries, said he be­lieves the board should be in­volved in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion since these types of crashes have oc­curred be­fore.

In 2016, a 14-year-old boy was pinned un­der­neath an OC Transpo bus that jumped the curb and slammed into a bus shel­ter.

Larkin added that the safety board’s job is to make rec­om­men­da­tions, while po­lice aren’t man­dated to do so.

Both he and Sha­l­aby said there’s a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties in road in­ci­dents than other modes of trans­porta­tion the safety board looks into.

In 2016 there were 1,898 mo­tor ve­hi­cle fa­tal­i­ties, 66 rail fa­tal­i­ties, seven ma­rine fa­tal­i­ties, and 34 fa­tal­i­ties in­volv­ing Cana­di­an­reg­is­tered air­craft, ac­cord­ing to the Gov­ern­ment of Canada web­site. It also said there have been no fa­tal ac­ci­dents “on a fed­er­ally reg­u­lated pipe­line sys­tem di­rectly re­sult­ing from the op­er­a­tion of a pipe­line” since the board was cre­ated in 1990, how­ever, one per­son was badly in­jured in 2017.

“It seems crazy to ig­nore road safety,” said Larkin. “There’s no rea­son the gov­ern­ment shouldn’t be tak­ing a lead on this.”


The board says it is not in­ves­ti­gat­ing the crash as it only probes ma­rine, pipe­line, rail and air in­ci­dents.

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